Sneak Peek – Do No Harm

Well, it’s nice to see Claire Huxtable on my television again. Unfortunately I don’t think Do No Harm was the best vehicle for her to make her triumphant return to the small screen. This show is a mess. A better title would have been Do Not Watch.

Do No Harm is basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a little bit of United States of Tara thrown in.  Steven Pasquale stars as Dr. Jason Cole, a nice guy and an accomplished neurosurgeon who is hiding a major secret: he has dissociative identity disorder (a real thing, but I am guessing that they take a lot of liberties in the show) and every night at 8:25 his alter ego Ian Price takes over for the next 12 hours. Ian is a violent psychopath who only cares about his own pleasure and who seemingly doesn’t like Jason very much and is hell-bent on destroying the good doctor’s life. Jason has tried to control Ian by taking medication that knocks him out every night when Ian would appear, but that is no longer working (because otherwise there wouldn’t be a show). Now that Ian is off his leash, he wants to ruin Jason’s career and his budding relationship with his colleague Lena Solis (Alana De La Garza), as well as find a woman from their past (Ruta Gedmintas) who both personalities loved.

It doesn’t make any more sense on the screen; there is a lot going on in the pilot of Do No Harm and it is best if you don’t think about any of it for too long or you are down the rabbit hole of trying to make heads or tails of this whole thing. This is not a show that holds up to even a little scrutiny. In other words, I don’t think reality and the people behind Do No Harm have ever met. Almost every component of the premise has some real problems.

Now I don’t necessarily need my television to always be grounded in reality, but when you spend more time thinking how ludicrous everything is rather than watching the show that is a real problem. For starters: It seems like a doctor, more than almost any other profession, would have an incredibly difficult time compartmentalizing his work into a 12 hour period. How exactly did he get through his residency with this condition? And should someone with an alter ego that enjoys hurting others really have gone into medicine, let alone neurosurgery, to begin with? How did someone make it this far in life and become this successful with this much baggage and by keeping so many people in the dark about it? Jason could avoid a lot of future problems with Dr. Solis if he simply said “So Lena, I really like you a lot. But there is something you should know. I have this thing……” Problem solved.

I like Steven Pasquale – he was great as Sean Garrity on Rescue Me – and I certainly don’t begrudge him a leading role. I think he’s more than capable of carrying a show when the material he’s given isn’t so terrible. Pasquale’s performance was actually one of the few things that I thought generally worked in Do No Harm and I can definitely see why an actor would be attracted to the idea of playing two different personalities, as it provides a real challenge and the chance to stretch their wings. The transformation between the identities is done almost exclusively by Pasquale changing his physicality and his speech; there is no make-up involved or distinctive clothing options like on United States of Tara, so it falls to the actor to differentiate Jason from Ian. Pasquale does a good job of this, though when he is playing Ian the performance is a little hammy. However, I think his acting choices are kind of limited in how he can portray this character, so while it was a little over the top it wasn’t necessarily to the detriment of the performance.

So where does Claire Huxtable (Phlylicia Rashad) come in to all of this? She is one of the many underdeveloped fringe characters that are trying to make this mess work. As the Chief of Medicine, her job is primarily to look the other way when one of her doctors starts acting erratically. Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks) has even a smaller role as Jason’s assistant. I’m not really sure what Levine is doing in this show, other than cashing a paycheck, but it is nice to see him getting some work. Ruta Gedmintas and Alana De La Garza aren’t particularly good as the possible love interests. They are both kind of vapid and wooden. I don’t really blame any of the actors, though; I think any actor would have a tough time selling any of this garbage. But these two women aren’t really helping matters.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • The show also tries to make room for some medical cases, but they are so forgettable that all they do is serve as a respite from the rest of this foolishness. They aren’t even that original; after you’ve watched a few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy or House, you expect a little more creativity. A woman who is abused by her police officer husband is about as trite as it comes.
  • They obviously tried to give a nod to the source material with the name of the main character: Dr. Jason Cole = Dr. J Cole =Dr. Jekyll. They even make sure to linger on the placard on his door in case you don’t make the connection.
  • Sometimes crazy in a show is good (see American Horror Story), but Do No Harm is not the good kind of crazy.
  • I’m pretty sure the whole diabetes explanation that they give is totally made up.
  • The networks really seem to want to make some variation of a show about multiple lives work; Fox tried it with the critically adored and soon canceled Lone Star and NBC has been down this road with their one season and done Awake. I just don’t know if this is a story that can be sustained over 22 episodes, even when it is done well.
  • This cracked me up: on the IMBD page for Do No Harm, the first listed actor, which is usually the highest billed performer, is the stand-in for the Dr. Solaris character. A stand-in. That’s a clear sign that there is trouble.
  • Believe it or not, this is actually the second pilot that they filmed for this series. After the first pilot, they made changes to address what they say were some of the problems with the show and from the critics I follow, this second pilot is a lot better than their first version. Now I am dying to see the original, because if this hunk of poo is the improvement I am really curious how this show was first conceived.

I don’t see this show doing very well and I predict it will be canceled pretty quickly. I hope that Steven Pasquale, Phlylicia Rashad and Samm Levine have much success in their next projects, but if their agents talked them into Do No Harm, they may want to find some new representation.

Do No Harm debuts tonight (Thursday January 31) at 10 pm (ET) on NBC (who else?).

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